I’ve always Depended on the Kindness of Strangers

Saturday is the day I realized my car was stuck in it’s parking spot.  (Please notice that last Saturday was two days BEFORE the extreme low temperatures.)  I got into my car on Saturday and attempted to drive to my first destination of the day; I put the car in reverse, but nothing happened.  I tried to move the car back and forth, little by little, but my tires just kept spinning every time.  I put the car in park and took control of the situation: I called my mom.  But Mom couldn’t actually help me because 1) she’s 700 miles away and 2) she’s never dealt with lots of snow either. After hanging up (I’m still in my car that is going nowhere), I used my phone to Google ‘car stuck in the snow’.  Here’s an excerpt from Wikihow on ‘How to Get Your Car Out of the Snow: 12 Steps’.  (Please notice the section in bold)

Dig away excessive snow and ice. Break up the ice immediately surrounding the tires. Obviously, if you have a shovel, you can dig out the snow. (This article assumes you don’t have a shovel handy (or else you wouldn’t be stuck, would you? If you don’t have one, improvise. A trowel is a good cheap shovel that can stay in even a small car; a plastic one won’t rust.)

That is what the website says word for word. A normal reaction to all this would have been to go buy a shovel immediately, dig myself free, and find a better parking spot.  But wikihow was mocking me, so I went back inside my apartment feeling defeated and didn’t leave for the rest of the day.  There was more snow on Sunday, and I knew the situation would only be getting worse – so I watched all 10 episodes of Sean Saves the World, the new sitcom starring Sean Hayes as a single, gay dad. (Can you tell I avoid my problems?)  I even had a friend text me that she would help dig me out, but I stayed on the couch.

It wasn’t until Wednesday (when the city of Chicago reached an almost tropical 14 degrees) that I bought a shovel on my way home from work.  I had to take the shovel on the train because my car was still submerged in snow – hence the need for a shovel.  I could feel the commuters on the Red Line looking at me and my shovel and thinking, “Silly girl.  You get the shovel BEFORE the snow,” but maybe that was just my imagination.  When I got off the train, it was cold and dark outside.  So I did what I do best and decided to put the snow-shoveling off until the next morning.

I did not look forward to this whole exercise.  I’ve never actually shoveled snow before.  I got my shovel (how many times can I use the word shovel in one post?) and walked towards my car.  A man was standing in the street and asked if I needed him to dig my car out of the snow.  I wasn’t really sure what to say – did he want money?  But I said ‘Sure, some help would be great.’  (The man had 5 or 6 braids in his hair so I will refer to him as Braid Man.)

I didn’t take a picture of Braid Man, so here is my artistic interpretation using ClipArt and Paint.

knight

I had my little ice scraper, so I tried to help as best that I could but Braid Man did most of the work.  And there was a lot of work since my car had fallen victim to a snow-blower.  It looked something like this:

Wall of Snow (2)

I would have taken a real picture, but then I wouldn’t have been helping with the digging process.  However, this picture is pretty accurate, except there was even more snow.  Once Braid Man had gotten rid of most of the snow (while all I really did was clear my windshield and break my ice scraper in the process), he told me to get in the car and try to drive out.  The car moved some before getting stuck in a fresh pile of snow, but Braid Man would not be thwarted!  He pushed my car from the front and then the back, and continued to clear the snow and ice each time the car stopped moving.  A gentleman walking by on the sidewalk stopped to watch our maneuvers and give some helpful tips on which tire was stuck. He eventually lost interest – I’m not sure Braid Man appreciated his comments.

Finally, after close to 30 minutes my car was free!  During the digging process, I tried to express my gratitude. ‘You’re an angel’, ‘What would I have done without you’, ‘I appreciate this so much’.  Once I was out of my parking spot, I wanted to thank him one more time.  But he just handed me my shovel and walked away before I could say anything.  Kind of like a cowboy walking into the sunset at the end of a movie.  OR like my own personal Dennis Quaid (another Day After Tomorrow reference!)- conquering the frozen elements to come to my rescue.  Thank you Braid man, wherever you are.

And thank you Dennis Quaid, just for being handsome.

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Surviving the Polar Vortex: The Dos and Don’ts

I’m sure it’s not news to anybody: it’s freakishly cold outside.  In Chicago we’ve had record snow fall and low temperatures.  Everyone told me that last winter was mild, but I can honestly say that I didn’t understand until now.  This storm has been a rude awakening for this Mississippi girl.  Here’s how I’ve handled the worst cold front in 20 years.

Do:  Be thankful you have a job where people understand the difficulties the winter storm can cause commuters.  (Or that you work in an old building where the reliability of the heating system is often questioned)  Either way, I’ve been working from home the past two days.

Don’t Wait until the storm hits before purchasing a snow shovel. I thought only people with sidewalks needed snow shovels but I was wrong.  SO WRONG.  Half of my car is currently covered with snow – I can’t see two of the tires.  So now, I am going to have to buy a shovel and bring it home via public transportation.  I’m still psyching myself up for that trip.  (PLUS, I’ve never shoveled snow before.  Is there some sort of trick to it?)

Do:  Remember to go to the grocery store before the extreme cold hits.  My grocery essentials: Diet Coke, frozen pizza, milk, and Ben & Jerry’s.

Don’t: Wait until the night that the temperatures drop to go grocery shopping.  Transit will be slow and you will spend a fair amount of time waiting for the bus to and from your grocery adventures.  The whole ordeal reminded me of scene from The Day After Tomorrow.  (Remember when Dennis Quaid and his partner had to walk to New York in their arctic gear to save Jake Gyllenhaal from the library?  In this scenario, I am Dennis Quaid and my ice cream was Jake Gyllenhaal.)

Don’t forget the ice cream!

Do: Be thankful that you purchased an Official Chicago Women’s Coat last winter.  That thing certainly keeps you warm!  Another bonus: if you should happen to fall down the icy stairs at the El station, your puffy coat will provide your bum with some extra padding.  However, the coat will not shield you from the embarrassment of sliding down 6 steps before having a stranger stop you on your way down.  Luckily everyone was so bundled up, I couldn’t see anyone’s face and I assume they couldn’t see mine.

Don’t: Hesitate to call to call your landlord if you notice murky water in your kitchen sink.  It is sewage water!!  Gah-ross.  I am the lowest apartment level, so when a pipe froze I was the first apartment to notice the water backing up.  I’m so lucky.  For the past two afternoons, I have had multiple Polish gentlemen in and out of my apartment attempting to fix the problem.  Every once in a while I will hear an “Oh boy…” from the kitchen followed by Polish and clanging of pipes.  The problem is still not fixed.

Do: Make sure you have enough tv shows and/or movies in your Netflix queue to entertain you.  You will not be getting much human interaction (except with your Polish property manager) so you are going to need some entertainment.  I made the mistake of watching lots of t.v. over the weekend, which left me with slim pickins’ for Monday and Tuesday.

Don’t: Be surprised when you do go outside for a quick errand.  Your nose hairs might freeze, but you will survive.

Do: Remember to call your mom.  She is probably worried about you and will require multiple updates.

2014-01-07 22.34.47

Stay Warm everyone!  Don’t forget your hat and mittens.

A Short Post about Weather

Last week, the sky looked like this:

Snow

Snow

And the street looked like this:

2013-04-19 23.14.41

Like, legitimate snow fall

  The date?  April 19.  And although I did use some fancy instagram filters, the snow in the photos is real.  Snow in April is not something this Southern gal can easily wrap her mind around.  Flabbergasted!

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel (literally):

Yes, I'm pointing to the sun in this picture.  Yes, there were people on the street when I took this picture.

Yes, I’m pointing to the sun in this picture. Yes, there were people on the street when I took this picture.

The date?  April 26 and the sun is back!  And she brought with her temperatures in the 60s.  (It might have actually only been 60 degrees, but I don’t care.)  Spring is here.  I used the air conditioner in my car for the first time in months yesterday.  I rolled the windows down to celebrate my springtime joy.  Then, I took this awkward photo with the sun shining over my head to commemorate this special occasion.

I’d Rather Experience a Volcano

I didn’t realize how over winter I was until this morning.  I was already feeling down because I was returning to work today after Spring Break.  Except, I didn’t have much of a break because I work multiple jobs.  As I was driving to school, some snow flurries started to fall.  I was on the brink of tears.  Tears!

I know I sound like the ultimate drama queen, but I was genuinely upset by the snow.  Here it is, April 1, and there’s snow falling!  My logical brain was telling me, “The sun is shining and it’s above freezing, so it’s not like there will be any accumulation.” but my emotional heart was saying, “This winter will never end and we should all just give up now!”

There was a moment when I actually wondered if it was actually snow I was seeing.  Maybe my eyes were just playing tricks on me, or maybe some other unexplainable weather system was moving through the city.  My next thought was of the movie Volcano starring the one and only Tommy Lee Jones (and yes, I actually saw that movie – I might have been the only one).  Maybe these weren’t snowflakes** landing on my windshield, but pieces of ash from an inactive volcano that had been hiding under the city of Chicago and was moments away from propelling flaming, molten lava-balls into the sky.

That’s when it hit me: I would rather go through a volcano eruption than live through this winter one day longer.  I didn’t expect to be the kind of Southerner who couldn’t handle the winter weather.  In fact, I’ve been trying to approach the constant cold, snow, and sleet with as much optimism as I can manage.  But it only took a few snowflakes in April to bring my true feelings to the surface.  At least no one was around to witness my extreme distress.

Oh yeah, Anne Heche is in this movie, too.  She takes a lake’s temperature and then L.A. explodes while Anne is all like “I told you so!”

**And in case you were wondering, the flurries this morning probably lasted less than two minutes total.  So now I know it only takes 90 seconds to give myself a slight emotional meltdown.

It’s Called a Snow Day

Chicago doesn’t have snow days. I guess you don’t really need them when you have salt and plows and people who don’t freak out at the slightest hint of a flurry.  (Except for that one storm two years ago when the city shut down.  I wasn’t actually here for that storm, but you can’t talk about snow around here without someone mentioning ‘Snowpocolypse 2011’.)

I miss snow days.  They were very rare in Mississippi.  But there’s nothing quite like the bliss of learning that school has been cancelled around 6:30 a.m. (I’ve experienced this both as a student and a teacher.)  If the buses can’t run, or there’s any doubt of the buses safety, we can’t have school.  One inch of snow could quite literally shut down a small Mississippi town.

ImageIf this was Mississippi, there would be no bread or milk at the grocery store and everyone would ride down their driveway on a plastic tray or garbage can lid.

Some of my fondest childhood memories took place on snow days.

  • One time, we rented movies before a big storm, and our power went out.  Our dad was able to sweet talk the lady at the rental place into not charging us a fee since the video was now lodged in our VCR.
  • I got into my first ‘fight’ when I was 10 because my friend’s little brother threw my hat over a fence.  I felt really tough for the 4.5 seconds that I was hitting him, and then he chased me all the way home.
  • After the same fight, my dad made me bacon and eggs while I was hiding out in our house too afraid to face what repercussions might await outside.
  • I remember orchestrating a rather large scale snow ball fight with a friend in my backyard.
  • The best was probably the time my little sister rebelled because the older kids weren’t giving her enough turns with the sled.  So, she and a friend stole a sled and climbed up a steep driveway in the neighborhood.  At the last moment, her friend chickened out and abandoned ship.  This left my five-year-old sister helpless and unable to control the sled as it torpedoed towards a parked car at the bottom of the driveway.  The big kids, realizing we had misplaced our younger sisters, arrived on the scene just in time to see the crash which caused my sister to slide under the car and lose a boot in the process.  My sister was so mad, she walked home with only one boot on.  I still fail to see how her crash was our fault.

I realize Mississippi has no way to deal with the snow.  No plows, no salt, an abundance of hills.  And real accumulation rarely happens.  There could be years between snow days, so we knew how to make them count.  My question is, is snow still special to the children of Chicago and its surrounding suburbs?  Do they know the joy of waking up in the morning only to have your parents tell you to go back to sleep because school is cancelled?  Do they know how important it is to play in the snow right away because by noon it might all be gone?  I certainly hope snow is still special in this part of the country.

Children of Chicago, please enjoy your snow.  There are lots of children in Mississippi who go without!